Powerful Internet Marketing for Small Businesses–A Case Study

When I started this site back in 2007, I had never heard of Internet Marketing. I had no clue how search engines worked. I couldn’t build a website to save my life. But hour by painstaking hour I learned.

Fast forward to 2009, and I’ve found myself talking to small business owners (franchisees, home-based business owners, real estate agents, lawyers, and even charitable organizations) about how to promote their companies or organizations on the Internet. From these discussions one thing has become abundantly clear–they don’t know how. And the problem is particularly acute for really small companies.

Without a large marketing budget, small companies can’t afford to hire a firm to properly build an online presence. And they are too busy running their company to learn how to do it themselves. Most companies manage to put together a website, but find that it adds little value to their business. The “if you build it they will come” approach to a website just doesn’t work. The result is often an attitude that the Internet is of little value to their business.

What a missed opportunity! Online marketing done right provides an extremely low cost yet powerful way to market a company. And that brings me to this case study on Internet marketing for small businesses. Marketing a business online is not difficult. It takes some known-how and elbow grease, but once you succeed, you’ll wonder how your business ever survived without it.

Over the next several weeks we’ll walk through how to market a company online. While these tutorials apply even to blogs and companies that exist solely online, the focus will be on small, local companies. To that end, we will be using a design/build firm in Northern Virginia as our case study. The firm is called the Fisher Group, and they designed and renovated our kitchen two years ago.

Apart from the fact that I know the Fisher Group and the quality of their work, I’ve selected a design/build firm for the case study for a couple of reasons. First, like most small companies, the Fisher Group is a local operation. Located in Northern Virginia, their work is limited in geographic scope, which is an important consideration when executing an Internet marketing program. Second, they already have an existing website that we can evaluate. And third, like many small companies that are brick and mortar operations, figuring out the benefit a website can bring to the company is not always obvious.

Here’s what will cover over the next few weeks (and I’ll add links to each tutorial here so this article will act like a table of contents):

  • Defining the Right Goals for your Internet Marketing Campaign
  • How to Evaluate Your Website (and your competitor’s website)
  • Keywords–The Lifeblood of Internet Marketing
  • 10 Keys to Optimizing Your Website for Search Engines
  • 10 Stupid Ways to Optimize Your Website for Search Engines
  • 20 Ways to Get Noticed Online
  • Free and Paid Tools to Help Supercharge Your Online Marketing Efforts
  • Social Media for Small Business
  • 10 Ways to Turn Visitors into Customers
  • Conversion Testing (or how to turn dimes into dollars)

I may add to or modify this list as we go, but that should give you a good idea of where we are headed.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that Internet marketing is about a lot more than just making money. It’s really about how to promote something online, whether it is a for profit company or not. You may want to promote your church’s website or the site of some other charitable organization. You may be a local politician wanting to promote your next campaign. Or you could be a school looking to promote a fundraiser. Whatever your specific company or organization does, Internet marketing is about two things:

1. Getting visitors to your site; and
2. Converting visitors to customers or clients or contributors.

And over the next several weeks, we’ll look at just how to do that.

Topics: small business

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